People often share family stories with me, but they don’t always allow me to publish them, so I’m pleased this morning to have permission to share this one with you. I haven’t found any other newspapers articles about this, but I will continue to look. BTW my own family had a similar story of one of my ancestors being mysteriously shot in 1868. There was no evidence to support the story…until newspapers began to appear online…and then I found an article about it, stating that he had indeed been murdered. Another reader shared a letter with me, written by the mother of a murder victim, and it contained more detailed information than the newspaper articles about it. As long as information continues to be discovered and shared there is hope that family stories will be confirmed. Perhaps the assailant in this case told another family member or confided in a friend or left a dying confession. One never knows…
This is a sad story about 2 family members killed in connection with the KATY Railroad. My grandfather, Claude Peters was a section foreman in Atoka and lived in a nice house the railroad provided for him, his wife and 5 children (4 girls and one boy). The boy, named after his father, was my father Claude Leroy Peters. Working for the railroad was a great job, good pay and seldom were people laid off. A person almost had to die to lose his job.
My grandfather liked to play poker with his friends and have a few drinks. He had been doing that on Sunday night when he was killed. My grandfather was found next to the railroad tracks after 7:20 PM on August 26, 1934. The story in the newspaper the next day said:
The McAlester New-Capital
Monday, August 27, 1934
SECTION FOREMAN KILLED BY TRAIN NEAR ATOKA
Claude Peters, 45, brother of Mrs. Fred Wheeler whose husband was killed by lightning on the Wilburton branch of the Katy near Buck two or three months ago, was found dead beside the M-K-T railroad track a mile north of Atoka Sunday night. It is believed the Texas Special, which passes through Atoka about 7:20 p.m. hit him.
The body was not run over by the train and it is thought he stood just a trifle too close to the tracks and was hit by the pilot*.
His home was a mile south of Atoka and the body was found about a mile north of that town. He was section foreman of the Atoka section.
It will be remembered that his brother-in-law, Fred Wheeler, was under a tarpaulin which was spread over the railroad motor car during a storm near Buck, when lightning killed him instantly. The man on the opposite side of the car was not injured.
*A pilot is an attachment to the front of the engine of a train to hit objects and knock them off the track so that the train will not be derailed.
It was a sad situation in that the twin sister of my grandfather, Maude had only months before lost her husband to an act of God while he was on the train as also mentioned in the above article. And now an accident has killed her twin brother Claude and he had left a widow and 5 children fatherless.
There is more to this story than meets the eye. Claude’s death was ruled an accident. Only my father did not believe it was an accident. Even drinking, his father would never get close enough to a moving train to be hit. My father was 12 years old when this happened. My father requested that he have his father’s railroad pocket watch. However, the watch was nowhere to be found. My father spoke to friends of his father and they told him there had been a poker game going on and his dad had won a sizeable amount of money. My father believes that someone attacked his father, knocked him out, and laid him on the train tracks so his death would look like an accident. The guy took Claude’s money and watch. There was no investigation into Claude’s death. My grandmother was required to move out of the house the railroad provided since my grandfather was dead. It was difficult for my grandmother Pearl to take care of her 5 children but they survived. She married a man after a couple of years and lived in Durant, Oklahoma till her death in 1980.
For years my father told our family that he was sure someone had murdered his father. No money or watch was found at the scene. I have always wondered why the police did not investigate his death further given these facts.
A year or two before my grandmother passed, a woman came to my grandmother to tell her a story about the woman’s late husband and a story he had told her. He wanted his wife to go to my grandmother and tell her this story and ask forgiveness. Before this man died, he confessed he had wanted my grandfather’s job, the very good pay and the house that the railroad provided. He said he waited for my grandfather, hit him on the head and knocked him out. The man stole the watch, the money and then laid him on the train tracks. He wanted it to look like he was drunk, fell on the tracks and was hit by a train. It certainly happened just as the guy had planned. My grandmother told the woman that it was in the past and nothing could change what happened. Being a good Christian woman, my grandmother told the woman she forgave her husband for what he did. The woman left. My grandmother did not remember the woman’s name.
The lives of so many people were changed forever. I am certain the man that killed my grandfather had a much better life financially. But I just wonder how he felt knowing what he did and living with it for the rest of his life. He obviously felt the guilt and was remorseful for what he had done.
My father, his mother and sisters had a much different life. Times were hard and times got a lot harder for all of them. My father never finished school and without an education, life was difficult. My sister, my brother and I never knew our grandfather. The man stole a lot more from our family than just a watch and some money. He stole a lifetime of memories. We have only a few pictures of our grandfather. My grandfather and my dad looked so much alike. I would love to have known my grandfather.